HOME­WORK

Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

ome­work is a topic that gets par­ents, teach­ers and kids hot un­der the col­lar. Con­stantly bub­bling un­der the sur­face of ed­u­ca­tion de­bates is whether in­sist­ing that kids do school work at home en­hances their learn­ing or in­ter­feres with their lives.

Re­search and ex­pert opin­ion fall on all sides of the ar­gu­ment, and the feel­ings of par­ents range from love to loathing. Some stud­ies say that re­view­ing at home what’s been learnt in for­mal lessons can em­bed the in­for­ma­tion. But other ex­perts say that set­ting home­work for ju­nior pri­mary stu­dents is a waste of time and painful for all par­ties.

Yet de­spite this peren­nial de­bate, over the next week or so – if not al­ready – the vast ma­jor­ity of school stu­dents aged be­tween six and 17 will be set home­work they’re ex­pected to com­plete.

THE LESSONS IN HOME­WORK

Dr Lyn O’Grady, na­tional project man­ager for Kid­sMat­ter Pri­mary at the Aus­tralian Psy­cho­log­i­cal So­ci­ety, says one of the main rea­sons to em­brace home­work is it can teach kids life skills such as be­ing self-mo­ti­vated and in­de­pen­dent learn­ers.

“The [aca­demic part] aside, they can build skills that will be im­por­tant for the years of se­nior school,” she says. “How par­ents sup­port their kids with home­work is im­por­tant – it can be tempt­ing for mums and dads to do it for them be­cause our lives are busy, but giv­ing them the an­swers pre­vents them from de­vel­op­ing learn­ing and think­ing pro­cesses and their over­all in­de­pen­dence.

“Some­times the big­gest les­son learned can be when stu­dents go back to school with home­work un­fin­ished,” O’Grady says. “How will they feel ad­mit­ting they didn’t fin­ish their home­work? What does it teach them?”

Com­plet­ing tasks at home teaches kids time man­age­ment and re­spon­si­bil­ity, and builds skills in in­de­pen­dent learn­ing that they’ll need later, she says, adding that kids thrive on rou­tine so home­work can of­ten be a more ef­fi­cient process if it’s done at the same time and in the same place. They also won’t per­form well with study tasks late in the day, or if they’re tired or hun­gry. “Get­ting school work out of the way be­fore do­ing fun things keeps mo­ti­va­tion up as well.”

O’Grady’s big tip to fam­i­lies is not to turn home­work into a fiery flash­point of con­flict with bick­er­ing and nag­ging. “If a rou­tine is in place, then kids know what’s ex­pected of them – it be­comes a habit to sit down and get their home­work com­pleted.”

What­ever your feel­ings on this con­tentious is­sue, home­work is of­ten part of the school cur­ricu­lum, so how can you help your kids?

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